Are all transmission fluids the same? Let’s find out

Cars are equipped with many types of fluids which ensures seamless operation. Some of these fluids include radiator fluid, motor fluid, refrigeration fluid, transmission fluids among many others.

Out of all types of fluids that a car uses, one of the most crucial fluids is the transmission fluid. This fluid helps to lubricate the bearing and metal parts inside the car manual gearbox thus keeping them from grinding as they move.

In an automatic transmission, the transmission fluid not only lubricates the moving parts but also provides friction and hydraulic pressure to enable the internal parts to work smoothly.

Transmission fluid also helps to keep the transmission cool in both automatic and manual transmissions. Shifting gears is usually a vigorous task for a car and the transmission fluid plays a crucial role in ensuring the car shifts smoothly without wearing down crucial parts.

One of the questions that drivers usually ask if whether the car’s transmission fluid is the same. If not, what are the different types available, and what will happen if you use the wrong type of transmission fluid? In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about transmission fluids.

So, are all transmission fluids the same?

A simple answer is NO, all transmission fluids are not the same. Different types of fluids are used for different types of transmission. A car transmission can either be manual or automatic. Fluids used for automatic transmission cannot be used for manual transmissions and vice versa. That is why it is important to ensure that you use the correct fluid for your vehicle’s transmission.

Types of transmission fluids

Automatic transmission fluid (ATF)

Automatic transmissions use a special type of fluid for their proper functioning. This fluid has various functions, including transmission cooling, gear lubrication, clutch friction operation, valve body operation, brake band friction as well as providing connection between the engine and the transmission.

When squeezed between clutches, this fluid acts as a glue by providing additional holding capacity and friction to drive the car. The use of automatic transmission fluid is highly dependent on the technology of the car’s transmission.

For instance, cars with CVT transmission use different fluids from cars with traditional transmissions. Common types of automatic transmission fluids include type F, HFM- Style fluids, and Dexron III.

Manual transmission fluid

Manual transmission fluids sometimes known as manual transmission lube or oil serve several roles including allowing smooth shifts, protection against wear, and brass synchronizers protection.

Even manual transmission fluids are different and using a wrong one could have bad consequences. However, this transmission fluid is typically the best option for manual transmissions.

The most popular manual transmission fluid formations include 75W-90, SAE 80W-90, and SAE 90.

What will happen if you use the wrong transmission fluid?

Now that you know all transmission fluids are not the same, the question that you are probably asking yourself right now is what will happen if you use the wrong transmission fluid.

One of the worst things you can ever do to your car is using the wrong transmission fluid. It can cause overheating, poor lubrication and in worst cases transmission failure.

Wrong transmission fluid will also speed up the wear and tear of the gears, causing them not to engage properly. Most damages done by a wrong transmission fluid cannot be reversed even if the mechanic flushes the transmission.

Some of the signs that indicate that you have used the wrong transmission fluid include:

What to do if you accidentally use the wrong transmission fluid?

If you find out that you have used the wrong transmission fluid on your vehicle, the first important thing to do is to remove the fluid immediately to minimize the amount of damage to the transmission.

However, if your car has been driving on a wrong transmission for a long time and the damage is massive, then the only solution to this is to change the transmission.

It is important to note that it is not possible to change the transmission fluid completely from your car’s transmission, a small amount of fluid will always remain.

The best solution is to avoid using the wrong transmission at all costs. If you are not sure of the transmission fluid that your car uses, contact a trusted mechanic to help you.

How often should the transmission fluid be changed?

Most motorists are usually keen on changing the engine oil but pay little attention when it comes to transmission oil. Like engine oil, both manual and automatic transmission oil usually break down over time and become contaminated with debris and particles.

When this happens, the transmission fluid needs to be changed. In general, the fluid for automatic cars needs to be changed more often than fluid for manual cars.

Although the transmission oil does not need to be changed as regularly as the engine oil, it is important to monitor it regularly. How often you should change your transmission fluid depends on the type of transmission that your car has and your driving style.

However, most car manufacturers recommend that you change your car transmission fluid every 30,000-60,000 miles.

One of the signs that indicate you need to change your transmission fluid is when you notice a decreased performance when engaging or shifting gears.

Changing your transmission fluid on time will help to prevent damage to internal parts and gears thus prolonging its lifespan and improving your car’s efficiency.

Is it okay to mix transmission fluids?

Yes, but only if they are 100% compatible, and to be more specific only if they are the same. Mixing transmission fluids is more complicated than mixing engine oil, so it’s better not to mess this up as it may cause severe damage to the transmission.

Final thoughts

If you have noticed that your car transmission fluid is low and wondering if all transmission fluids are the same, we hope that the information given above has been helpful.

Transmission fluids are not the same. So, before you change your car’s transmission check your car’s manual or consult a trusted mechanic to ensure that you use the right fluid.

Scroll to Top